Dynaudio Focus 140 vs Totem Model 1 Signature

Looking for a comparison of the dynamic capabilities of these two speakers. I've heard the Totems and was impressed by their dynamic snap (as well as their bass and soundstaging). The Dynaudios are quite similar to my understanding (same bass driver) but a bit smoother on top and easier to drive--a possible benefit since I'll be using an NAD C325BEE, at least in the short-term. If the Dynaudios are as dynamic, I'm wondering if they might be my better choice. Also, does anyone know if either plays better at low volumes?

Thanks in advance!
Subjective tastes aside; The Model 1 will offer cleaner, quicker bass, while the Focus 140 will offer bass thats significantly more powerful and dynamic.

Despite spec ratings, the Focus series is pretty easy to drive. Given your current integrated, and the general flexibility of the Focus line, I'd steer you more towards their direction.
Thanks, Rumadian--I was leaning that way myself, except for not having heard them. I may take the leap all the same.
As a Dynaudio dealer I'll chime in and hopefully clarify a statement you've made that is incorrect "Dynaudios are quite similar to my understanding (same bass driver)". In no way are these the same drivers. In some cases Totem uses a driver made by Hi-Vi out of China that is a look-a-like to the Dynaudio drivers. Now, the Totems do sound nice and I'm not dissing them. Just don't want to confuse others suggesting the drivers are the same....they are not.

Dynaudio and NAD really mate quite well together. In Europe you will see the combination a lot because they get distrubuted by the same distributor or buying group.

As for "low volume level" listening. This is where a high current amplifier comes into play. This fits my taste as well, so word of advice....get as much current as you can afford or save up until you can get it. It can make a dramatic impact.
I second Ttowntony. Both of these speakers are a bit much for the 325bee. They will make noise, and it may not be a bad noise. But they will start to sound like real music when used with a high current amp with 100 watts or more per channel.

I listened to the Model ones with the 250W/ch Musical Fidelity A5 integrated and CDP and it was a great match.

Listened to the 140's with a Creek 80W/ch integrated amp and Simaudio CDP and they sounded a little thin. Listened to the same speakers with an Audio Research pre/amp pair with about 130W/ch and they really sang.

As I recall, the Totems imaged a little better, and the Dynaudios had a bigger sound. They are both great speakers.
Appreciate this input, guys. Poking around last night I found an ecoustics forum in which some Dynaudio lovers talked about the need for higher current and explained that it helped low volume listening. It's good to have that confirmed here, and it echoes what I experienced when I had a Marantz and Jolida 100W integrateds in my system.

I think I might leap for the speakers first (assuming I can find a used pair) and upgrade the amp a few months down the road. Any sub-1K used amp suggestions that pair well with the Dyns would be great to file away: if I could keep it closer to 600-700, that might make it easier.

That's interesting to know about the drivers, too! I've seen the Hi-Vi drivers but didn't know Totem used them...

Thanks again!
Throw some extra coin into your amp purchase or wait and save up to get a used Prasound Halo A21. The halo A21 has gobbs of current at 250w/channel and will make your speakers sing. Plus, you won't have to upgrade your amp if decide to move up the Dynaudio line in the future.
Most conventional transducers respond well to reasonable helpings of clean current. The Focus series is of no exception. Give em' some extra juice and they'll sing like angels. That said; their voicing and simple/efficient crossover will let you squeak by with something like the NAD C325.

When you gather up enough funds in the kitty to move on up the amplifier chain, I would highly encourage you to look towards tried and true synergies from the likes of Sim Audio, Naim, Krell or even NuForce. Of course, there are plenty of fantastic options that I'm missing out on. Oh well, that's a bridge you will have to cross when you get there.

Moving onto Totem real quick; I forgot to mention that the Model 1 does exhibit better low level listening behavior (to these ears, at least). In my experiences, Dynaudio products tend to come more into their own once a bit of volume is applied.

Also, its true that Totem uses the HiVi driver. However, my understanding is that this driver is used only in the Forest. I believe the Model 1 uses a bona fide Dynaudio driver, and I know without a doubt that the Mani 2 Sigs do.

Anyways, good luck!
Well, I'll definitely have to start off feeding the new speakers with the C325 and step up later when I have the money. I'd figured the Totems might do better at lower volumes because they have a little more treble emphasis, but I think I might be more satisfied over time with the Dynaudios' balance.

Rumadian--you mention Naim and Simaudio amps. My question, particularly concerning the Naims, is if even with a lower rating in watts, do they supply sufficient current such as you describe doing well for the Dyns? Simaudio's new integrated is 50W, and it would fall in my price range used. Not sure if I'll need to go for more pure power instead. Would a 50W tube integrated with good current like a Prima Luna or Cayin do the job?

After a decade with essentially my starter system, I'm looking to make my first significant upgrades--seeing the path ahead is helpful, so I know what to look for. Looking to put together a setup that's worth holding onto and has synergy. Thanks again for all the help and suggestions.
Ablang - Both the affordable Sim Audio i-1 and the Naim Nait5v.2 use robust power supplies with a fairly simple and efficient circuit. Unless you intend on cracking walls and shaking picture frames off a desk; they should be able to provide ample current for anything in Dynaudio's Focus range.

A 50w tube integrated would also suffice in most case scenarios. Although I admit; I'm not the right guy to confront about affordable tube integrated amps. While I love the warm touch of a valve, I haven't encountered too many truly affordable amps that could tickle my fancy.

My suggestion would be to follow up with the folks at Naim or Sim Audio. Ask them for their opinions. If I were in your position, I'd eye-ball either the Sim Audio i-1/CD-1 set-up, or the Naim CD5i / Nait 5i *version 2* set-up. You get synergy, form and function, well engineered electronics that are a proven match with Dynaudio (and even Totem) loudspeakers.

All the best!
Thanks again, Rumadian. Looks like I have some strong possibilities that won't break the bank. I've liked what I've heard about Simaudio gear, and I am leaning heavily toward the Dynaudios.
agree with rumadian
Have to agree with rumadian and Jaybo.

On the Naim Front - I have never yet heard a pair of speakers that the Nait 5i integrated could not drive to comfortably loud listening levels and still make it sound like (real) music, including: Quad 21L, Devore Gibbon 8's, Totem Arros, Hawks & Forest, Epos M16 and Naim's own SL2. Note that these are all small floor standers and may be slightly more efficient than the smaller monitors you are considering. These speakers are all ass kickers by the way, just in case you are ever looking for a bit larger box.

Other random notes:

Another Dynaudio monitor that I have been impressed by is the Audience 52. This is a bigger box than the Focus 140, and sounds like it. I listened carefully to this speaker driven by a Rega P3 TT and a PrimaLuna ProLogue 2 integrated tube amp, and was QUITE IMPRESSED. The ProLogue is only rated at 40 W, but was easily able to drive the 52's. This amp might also work well with the 140's since they have the same sensitivity rating (86db). Not sure the used price for this amp is below $1000 yet, but it's worth a look.

I also demoed the Dynaudio Audience 72 floor stander with NAD separates driven by an NAD cd player, and that combination sounded very nice, although the NAD amp (C272) was packing considerably more horsepower than a the C325. Again, the little NAD will make pretty noise with either the Totem 1's or the little Dynaudio Focus, but you will just need a more capable amp to extract the total goodness therein.
It all comes down to your taste whether great mid range and imaging that you crave or the tighter bass that you like. Good electronics (amplification) plays a big role too.
Amended position on the Totem Model 1's and 50W amplifier.

Not sure if this comes too late to help, but I happened to listen to the Model 1's today driven by the Music Hall Trio all-in-one system which claims 50W/channel. The combination sounded pretty good - with any sins being those of omission, rather than the Model ones pointing out any glaring deficiencies in the amp or CDP. So the Totems at least seem to be fairly forgiving. This may also say something about the quality inherent in Music Hall's new "lifestyle" system, which I thought comported itself fairly well next to the mid to high level Naim gear on hand for comparison.
Both the Totem Model One and the Dyn 52 are great speakers worth matching with amplifiers that cost as much as three times the amount that you invest into the Totem Model One or the Dyn 52SE. They are designed by different people and of course they sound different. Whether you go with Totem or Dynaudio is a matter of taste.

To extract the most out of both the Totem and the Dyn, you will need decent pre/pro combo that gives you 100 watts each channel. But decent integrateds like Sim, Plinius, and Naim also suffice. NAD is also okay if you spend less than $1K. $1K or more, I would go with the amps that I have mentioned earlier.

Save up so that you can move up to the real mid fi electronics. You wil be more content.

Good luck.
I have owned both the 140's and Model 1 Sigs, with different integrateds- Musical Fidelity a3.2 and a308, Simaudio I-3SE and Plinius 8200 mkii. The MF a3.2 seemed a bit weak. The MF a308 had plenty of power but lacking in detail and soundstage. The Sim I-3SE was very musical and detailed, but could use a bit more uumph. The Plinius 8200 mkii, though just a bit bloated sounding to my ears, was the best match.
I would respectfully disagree with Hieule5 in his statement that these speakers are "worth matching with amplifiers that cost as much as three times the amount that you invest into the Totem Model One or the Dyn 52 se". The cost would be in the $6000.00 area. Great sound? Absolutely. A good amp/ speaker cost ratio? My thinking is the money could be better spent elsewhere in your system or in music.
Mr. Valinar

My estimate was a little bit off but all I am saying is that if you spend less on amplification for these great monitors, the sound will be somewhat dull.

Btw, what do you Gs think of the Dynaudio Audience 72/72SE?


"Btw, what do you Gs think of the Dynaudio Audience 72/72SE?"

Love em. Listened to these compared to similar sized and priced Triangles and Revel Speakers and found the 72's to work better and sound more balanced and "natural" with relatively modest NAD separates (C162/C272) and CD player (C542). I think if you were using significantly more revealing electronics, they may not give you every thing that say, the Focus or Contour line would, but I don't think they will sound "bad" either. Highly recommended at this price point.
Mr. Knownothing

I have listened to the old Audience 50 but was not very impressed, probably because it was driven by some AVR midgets. You are right when you give them a high current pre/pro combo, the Dynaudio really open up.

I am saving up for a pair of Dynaudio 72 and if I come across a great deal, I may step up to the 72SE.

To serve a dual purpose room (music/HT), do you think that a Denon AVR midget can provide the Dynaudio 72/72SE enough juice for a small apartment living room?

Thank you kind sir.
Totem uses dynaudio and seas drivers and not cheap chinese drivers as Ttowntony stated...
Totem’s attention to detail does not end with the cabinetry. The Model 1 Signatures use Totem-modified 5" Dynaudio woofers and 1" SEAS aluminum tweeters. The Dynaudio woofer has a 3" voice coil, and being a sadist, I drove it very hard to see how much abuse it could handle. The Model 1 Signature differs from the Model 1 in that the woofer and tweeter are connected to the crossover with shielded silver Teflon dielectric, and multi-strand oxygen-free copper wiring. The crossover uses larger and higher-grade oil-dielectric capacitors, and metalized polypropylene capacitors. Totem feels that grilles muck up the sound of the Model 1 Signatures, so they are not supplied (although you can buy them for $40 if you need them). I mention this as a warning to people with small children and pesky felines (I’m a dog lover). The tweeter is covered with a metal mesh cap, so I think that you are OK on that front. The Dynaudio woofer seems to be very strong, and I think that it would take something like a solid right from George Foreman or a thrust with a metal object from someone like O - (I’ll restrain myself at this point) to damage the woofer. The Model 1 Signatures’ frequency response is rated from 50Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB, with a sensitivity rating of 87dB/W/m. They are also a 4-ohm load and in my experience, not the easiest speaker to drive.

What is a "Denon AVR midget"???
Budt wrote:

"The Model 1 Signatures’ frequency response is rated from 50Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB, with a sensitivity rating of 87dB/W/m. They are also a 4-ohm load and in my experience, not the easiest speaker to drive."

Which is why I was surprised that they sounded as good as they did with the 50W/Channel Music Hall Trio system, and says something about the amplifier section ability to step up to a lower impedance load.
Mr. Knownothing

I am not a big fan of the AV receiver so that's why I call them midget. Sorry:-))

Totem Forest (8 ohms) have the Chinese driver but not the Totem Model 1 and the Mani 2 (4 ohms). That Chinese company is selling their speakers online under the name Swan. The headquarter of that company is based in LA. That much I know.

We never see people line up in New York or LA to buy a pair of Totem Rainmaker or a pair of Dynaudio Focus. It did not happen, does not happen, and will not happen.

But people will camp out at night in front of those APPLE stores for a $199 I Phone V2 and they will download music for their I Pod shuffle or whatever... They don't listen to music the way we do. I guess Chinese made or not and we like it or not, our hobby soon will be gone with time.

OK. It depends on the size of your "midget". A Denon 280X or higher model should definitely be able to drive the Audience 72/72SE just fine. A Denon 230X "midget" might sound passable. Any smaller Denon "midgets" definitely not recommended, current too low and THD too high (don't believe the high power ratings on HT receivers).

THX rated receivers are best, and I recommend people buy a great used receiver rather than going for a newer model with all the latest decoding bells and whistles but a lesser power supply and amplifier sections. Let your DVD/Bluray player do the heavy lifting on both video and audio decoding and use the powerful receiver to drive the speakers.
THX is a joke. Telling somebody to purchase a receiver based on THX standards would lead one to believe that a person recommending such a thing works for George Lucas.

If I worked for George Lucas, I would probably have a better stereo...

In fact, I used 2.1 sound in my HT system - I am more into audio right now.

I simply suggest THX as a simple way to assure you are getting a used mass marketed AVR that has the best chance to drive demanding speakers. These are typically the top of the line for any mass marketer and have the best preamps and power supplies in THEIR line. In the ultimate hifi sense of quality and performance, I would agree, THX is not "best".

Straight from the horses mouth below. Believe what you choose.

From THX website:


THX Certified Receivers are the centerpiece for great home audio systems. THX certification ensures that receivers can truly unlock the power of surround sound and deliver crystal clear movie, music and game experiences to your home theater or media room. By definition, a receiver is the combination of a pre-amplifier and a power amplifier.

A THX Certified Pre-Amplifier not only goes through rigorous performance tests, but also embeds THX patented technology features. Through various combinations, these features are used in THX Listening Modes to give you the best possible playback experience - correcting acoustic errors that occur in the translation of content from the movie studio to your home.

Power Amplifier:
A THX Certified Power Amplifier is put through a series of performance tests that addresses items such as low noise, distortion, crosstalk, high output current and voltage. In addition, THX has interoperability requirements such as gain structure, sensitivity, loading and output. A THX Certified Power Amplifier works with any pre-amplifier and speaker system however, when used with other THX Certified components, you are assured of seamless compatibility."

My point was that many of todays AVR's can meet these THX requirements but many manufactures have chosen not to 'buy' the THX label.

THX might have meant something 15 years ago, today it's a label.

Case in point:

Having owned both speakers, while both can be driven with your NAD, though both can benefit from muscular amps. Good candidate for either amp is the Plinius integratd amps.
I saw that this thread had been revived recently and thought I might post word on how it all worked out for me. I ended up with the opportunity to buy the original Totem Model One and a pair of the Dynaudio Focus 140s at the same time and do a back-to-back home audition. My previous speakers (of ten years) had been KEF Q15s, and I was looking for something that would provide a substantial upgrade in overall sound quality while providing a lifelike midrange (the KEFs were brilliant at this for the price) and a little more low-end extension.

Prior to looking at the Totems and Dyns, I bought and briefly used a pair of Spendor S3/5s. They had the midrange in spades but not enough low-end for my 14x18 listening room; and, strangely, the highs sounded very tilted-up to my ears, possibly because of a dip they have in the upper mids. The Totems got to me first, and I was struck by three things immediately: first, the above responders were right that my C325BEE didn't have enough juice to get the low-end out of them (and I know they can go pretty convincingly low); second, the midrange was amazing and involving; third, the highs sounded over-accentuated--lip-smackings and breath jumped out of the mix, crowd noise in the background of jazz albums seemed boosted, horns had an edgier-than-real-life quality. For all this, the imaging was INCREDIBLE. They reminded me quite a bit, actually, of some Grado phones I've heard and of my old AKG K501s. I definitely think some of the edginess in the highs had to do with the limits of my amp, but measurements in Stereophile and UHF reviews show a few treble spikes, and I think that's what I was hearing. All in all, even as I found myself dazzled by their performance, I found them fatiguing. But man are they beautiful--and tiny! My wife and I both wanted to love them, but she heard the same things I did, so we set them aside and hooked the KEFs back up till the Dyns arrived.

The Dyns are beautiful speakers, too, and they're such an easy load that the C325BEE was plenty for them. My first reaction to them after having the others in the system was to notice how enormously relaxed I felt listening to them. Their frequency balance tilts toward the warm side, and I found myself able to listen enjoyably at a higher than usual volume to the same recordings that came across as brash and harsh through the Totems. They excel at dynamics, too: I dug through every Art Blakey recording I own, loving how his drum kit snaps out of the mix. And with surprising quantities and quality of bass, too. I initially compared them favorably to my Sennheiser HD600s. The one other thing that was immediately apparent (and very different than the Senns) was that the midrange didn't seem quite as lucid as through the other speakers, including the KEFs. After all the merry-go-rounding I decided to stick with them, but after about a month I found that I was listening to lots of rock but less and less jazz and classical. Putting on some of my favorite albums, I figured out why: the midrange that matters so much for acoustic instruments and voices seemed congested and thick. For rock, where the Dyns dynamics and bass made for a locked-down beat, this wasn't such a big deal, I simply didn't feel I was hearing high-fidelity reproduction--it was too obviously colored by the speaker (and I took a lot of care with placement to check out this conclusion).

To wrap up what's becoming a rather long story, I've finally wound up with something very different than what I was originally looking for, and I couldn't be happier. I decided to audition the Vandersteen 2CE Signature II at Ears Nova in Manhattan when my wife and I were in the city for vacation. Joshua Cohn there set up a listening room for us in a mock-up of our room at home, with inexpensive electronics. (We had a fantastic time with him there, and incredible service: I'd recommend Ears Nova in a heartbeat). When we sat down with our stack of CDs, that was it: it was the sound I'd been looking for. We walked out the door with the floor models at a discount (this makes the service that much more remarkable, as he hardly made a penny on them). Back home, the contrast with the Dyns was clear. Simply put, the Vandersteens do everything well with few compromises in any area--and certainly not in the midrange. They sound good with every kind of music. The two changes I've made since have been: a) to get used to two slabs of Stonehenge in my living room after all those monitors, and b) to upgrade to NAD's C372 (more power I could afford). The C325BEE was good, but just couldn't move the Vandies' low end. With the C372, the speakers have as much bass as I'd want in my room, free of any bloat, and highs more extended than with any of the other speakers I went through, but without any grain or sense of fatigue. I still had the Dyns in house once I got the new amp, and hooking them up to it I still found them lacking in the same areas but had to admit that if I primarily listened to rock, they would be a great pick.

This got a bit windy--but the hunt's been a long one. Thanks again.
Vandersteen is a very good speaker for the money. The bass could hit real low and for music listening, you don't need a powered sub.

Agreed with you on the Totem Model 1, treble is a bit too hot and exaggerated. Imaging is superb but very finicky with placement, stand, amplification, and source....got so frustrated that I ended up selling the Model 1 for less than half what I paid for them.

May I ask what kind of Dyn monitors that you have sir? I have auditioned the Audience 52SE. Smooth high, great mid range and tight bass. The Audience 72SE is also a great pair.

If you ever want to dump your Dynaudio, kindly let me know sir:-)) I would buy them from you...

Great reviews and interesting account. Thanks for the follow-up.

On further reflection - while your review is really well written, I find myself completely disagreeing with your description of the Dynaudios - this is not how they sounded to me on an extended listen with high end ARC tube gear, which might lean a bit to the warm side, and all kinds of source material. I got no sense of congestion in the mids. I found the 140s to be completely neutral and wonderfully musical on all kinds of recordings. I came away thinking "what a wonderful HiFi bargain - nice box, nice sound".

Which makes me wonder - are you sure your speakers were completely broken in? Even if you purchased them used? In Wes Phillips' Stereophile review he goes on about how there was a night and day difference between the speakers sound early in life compared to after many hours of intense breaking-in. Phillips' description of the sound before break-in is closer to yours than his description and my experience after more complete break-in. Here's the link:


Excerpt below:

"I placed the Focus 140s on 26"-high, aggregate-filled stands and faced 'em straight ahead with no, or extremely minimal, toe-in. This placed their tweeters at ear height for me. Then I waited. And suffered.

How come? Dynaudio had told me up front that the 140 requires lots of break-in. Unlike with many loudspeakers, however, breaking in the 140 for a long time did not result in a small difference between good sound and better. It was more like the difference between god-awful and astonishingly good. Out of the box, I found the 140 veiled, murky, and pretty hard to listen to. After about 100 hours of playing music, they might have actually sounded worse—fortunately, when it comes to pain, humans have short memories. But after the 140s had played 250 hours' worth of full-range, dynamically challenging music, I walked into the house after a day spent elsewhere and listened in amazement. I heard music—and I saw that it was good.

Considering how good the 140s sounded once I'd broken them in, I'm almost tempted to minimize how unimpressed I was by them at first. Almost. The problem is, given the scant hours of play any given demo speaker receives in a hi-fi shop, you may never hear a properly broken-in pair until you've taken them home and endured that long, heart-stopping trial by fire. If you buy a pair, hang in there. There's one heck of a payoff. Eventually.

Although the Focus 140s come with foam port inserts, I didn't use them, preferring their tonal balance unplugged; however, the inserts may come in handy in some rooms. To my ears, the 140s sounded best well away from the walls. Moving them closer to the room boundaries did reinforce the midbass, but in that area they required little boost."

With all that said and posted, the Vandersteens are great speakers, and I think you will be very happy driving them with the big NAD amp. Happy listening :-)

Thanks for these thoughts--and I certainly can believe that you heard the Focus 140 sound good in another context; I'd be interested in hearing the comparison with better gear. Wes Phillips' review was one of the reasons I bought the Dyns, so I checked with the previous owner that he'd put in a lot of time on them, then did the same myself anyhow--first on break-in, and then with 2 or so hours a day of listening over the two months or so I owned them. They didn't seem to change over time, so I do believe they must have been broken in. After much experimentation I wound up with them sounding best just shy of 3' into the room and well away from side walls, so I'm not sure that it could have been boundary reinforcement from the port either--and I'm not sure if that would explain what I was hearing in the mids to upper mids.

Thanks for your input from the start. The Vandersteens are great, and I plan to hold onto them for a good long time.
Thanks for the reply. Some stuff just sounds better together. Enjoy!